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What Is Shift-Work Sleep Disorder?


Updated February 20, 2014

What Is Shift-Work Sleep Disorder?
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Shift-Work Sleep Disorder:

In individuals who work at atypical times, there may be problems relating to an inability to obtain sufficient sleep, to preserve alertness during their shifts, and to maintain social relationships and activities. These difficulties relate to problems with the circadian rhythm and are collectively called shift-work sleep disorder.

The condition occurs in people who work late shifts, night or graveyard shifts, early shifts, or even rotating shifts. Trying to work at an unusual time (especially when our body desires to be asleep) raises problems. This may result in insomnia, excessive sleepiness at work, insufficient total sleep time, and fragmented periods of sleep. For those who work nights, trying to make time for family, friends, and social events can further impact their sleep. It is possible to adjust to working nights.

Example: Suzanne is a 28-year-old woman who works as a nurse overnight at the hospital four nights per week. She often feels sleepy at work, and can only sleep for five or six hours during the day. Her family obligations often cut into her sleep time. She does not keep a regular sleep-wake cycle on her days off and this adds to her difficulties.

Learn more about circadian rhythm disorders.


American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "International classification of sleep disorders: Diagnostic and coding manual." 2nd ed. 2005.

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